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INTRODUCTION                            xi

Yet if we of the West were to wait for the interpretation of
China until these newly released ones could find adequate
and articulate voice, it would be to wait longólonger, perhaps,
than our generation. Happily there are a few others, a few
spirits large enough not to be lost in the confusion of the times,
humorous enough to see life as it is, with the fine old humour
of generations of sophistication and learning, keen enough to
understand their own civilization as well as others, and wise
enough to choose what is native to them and therefore truly
their own. For a long time I have hoped that one of these
few would write for us all a book about his own China, a real
book, permeated with the essential spirit of the people. Time
after time I have opened a book, eagerly and with hope, and
time after time I have closed it again in disappointment,
because it was untrue, because it was bombastic, because it
was too fervent in defence of that which was too great to need
defence. It was written to impress the foreigner, and there-
fore it was unworthy of China.

A book about China, worthy to be about China, can be
none of these things. It must be frank and unashamed, because
the real Chinese have always been a proud people, proud
enough to be frank and unashamed of themselves and their
ways. It must be wise and penetrative in its understanding,
for the Chinese have been above all peoples wise and pene-
trative in their understanding of the human heart. It must be
humorous, because humour is an essential part of Chinese
nature^ Jeep, mellow, kindly humour, founded upon the
tragic knowledge and acceptance of life. It must be expressed
in flowing, exact, beautiful words, because the Chinese have
always valued the beauty of the exact and the exquisite* None
but a Chinese could write such a book, and I had begun to
think that as yet even no Chinese could write it, because it
seemed impossible to find a modern English-writing Chinese
who was not so detached from his own people as to be alien
to them, and yet detached enough to comprehend their mean-
ing, the meaning of their age and the meaning of their youth.

But suddenly, as all great books appear, this book appears,
fulfilling every demand made upon it. It is truthful and not
ashamed of the truth: it is written proudly and humorously